Recipe: Lasagne


I have never understood people who don't like lasagne. Admittedly, I haven't met many of these people, so maybe they just don't exist? For all it's simplicity, I think the pairing of cheese and tomato has to be one of the greatest (I mean, just adding it to a piece of the most basic sliced white bread can make for an incredible snack when under the grill a la "toast pizza"), and throw in the warm, savoury meatiness and what more could you want, right?


(I know that's not a very appetising picture, to be honest I have been putting in less effort with my photos. I largely forget/don't get a chance to try and get good ones, and usually just use my phone)


Growing up, lasagne was always my favourite meal - although I did have the advantage of growing up with my mums lasagne, which is awesome. Maybe these mythical people who don't like lasagne simply grew up eating crappy lasagne (if such a thing exists?). I remember having the lasagne at the college canteen, which I think probably ranks as the worst of my lasagne experiences, but even so, lasagne-day in the canteen was still something to look forward to.

When I say it was my favourite meal, it's not that it's fallen out of favour in any way, its just that my tastes have expanded and some of my favourite meals now are the kind of thing that I would have groaned at on hearing they were planned for dinner as a kid (for some unknown, un-explicable reason, I was never that fussed for roast dinners, casseroles, stews etc - possibly just the fact that they had visibly whole vegetables in them?  Possibly just because I was a stupid child. Either way, these are now amongst my favourite meals).


Anyways, on to my lasagne.  This is not the recipe for the best lasagne, or a special lasagne, this is just the way I currently cook it. I feel like it should be better, but I can't really put my finger on what particular characteristics should be stronger.  It will undoubtedly go through changes each time, but either way, it seems to be well received on the occasions I have made it so far, so here it is..


Ingredients

The meat ragu:

  • 500 grams pork mince
  • 500 grams beef mince
  • 200 grams bacon lardons (or just chopped bacon)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • olive oil
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano (dried is fine)
  • 400 grams tinned tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato puree
  • Worcester sauce
  • 400 ml stock
  • milk (a few splashes)
  • 100 ml red wine 
  • flour
  • 3-4 bay leaves (optional)

Cheese Sauce (optional):

  •  1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • flour
  • 200 ml milk
  • 200 grams cheddar
  • optional: 1 bay leaf and nutmeg for grating

Essentials:

  • lasagne sheets
  • 100 grams fresh mozarella
  • 100 grams ricotta


Method

Pre-heat fan oven to 160 degrees centigrade

The meat:

  1. First, we will cook the meat sauce, that will go in the oven for a few hours giving us plenty of time for the cheese sauce right at the end. Melt the butter and a glug of olive oil in a big pan

  2. Cook the onions, garlic, carrots and celery in the butter and oil over a low heat until they are beautifully soft and aromatic - about ten minutes - at this point I don't really season with salt, as we will be adding bacon and stock later, which can both be salty.

  3. Add the bacon and teaspoon of oregano and cook for a further few minutes (don't worry about how cooked the bacon is, we will sit this in the oven later and it will become meltingly soft then)

  4. Remove the ingredients from the pan and sit aside, leaving a little of the oil/butter in the pan. Add the pork and beef, and brown, gently mixing and breaking up with a spoon.

  5. Once browned, stir the tomato puree through the mince and cook for a few more minutes.

  6. Add a tablespoon of flour or so to bring together the juices and stir through

  7. Next, we will de-glaze the pan with the red wine - pour it all in and cook for a further few minutes, the wine will probably reduce a but here

  8. Mix the cooked vegetables and all the oil/butter with them back into the meat and mix through

  9. Add the stock, Worcester sauce and bay leaves (if using them), stir through and stick in the oven. Cover the pan but slightly crack the lid (we want some reduction in the sauce).

  10. The meat can stay in the oven for as long as you need - if it is reducing too much just add a splash of water and reduce the temperature - I keep it in for about 2 hours, but depending on timing. Once done, pour a few splashes of milk in and stir through - this will bind it together and make it a little glossier (can also use cream for even more indulgence!)

The cheese:

Really, the sauce is optional - sometimes I just replace the cheese sauce entirely with torn mozzarella and ricotta, but if you are feeling more decadent, then you can make a bechamel sauce to top the lasagne for an extra cheese hit!
  1. We will put the constructed lasagne in the oven for about 40 minutes, so about an hour before you want to eat, start the white sauce

  2. This is a basic bechamel sauce, so make as you normally would - you can be as fancy as you like, adding bay leaves to the milk, grate in some nutmeg at the end, whatever. I normally keep this simple as there lots else going on and this is not the star of the show  - melt the butter, stir in the flour until it forms a a smooth paste, add the milk gradually, still over the heat, whisking it until smooth as you add it.

  3. Once the milk is added and sauce combined and starting to bubble, take off the heat and add the cheddar

Construction:

  1. Put a layer of lasagne sheets at the bottom of an oven dish, follow with a layer of meat sauce. Then using a teaspoon sprinkle a few blobs of ricotta on top of the meat, chop the mozzarella to approximately 1 cm cubes and sprinkle some of those on. Repeat the pasta-meat-cheese until all sauce used

  2. If using cheese sauce: top the lasagne (assuming your top layer is currently meat topped with ricotta and mozzarella) with sheets of pasta and then pour over the cheese sauce

  3. Put in the oven and cook for 40 minutes



rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

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